Hi, my name is Maddie Reiser, and I am going into my senior year at Stoughton High School. I have always been involved in Jewish activities. I went to a Jewish sleep-away camp for eight summers and finished out my time there with a trip to Israel last summer. Coming from a town that does not have a very large Jewish population has made these experiences so much more meaningful to me. I first learned about JTFGB from my brother, who did this amazing program all four years of high school. I was so excited to join this program to learn about nonprofits, fundraising, grant proposals, etc. I knew that whatever I learned from the program would stick with me throughout my life, and I also felt as though these subjects should be introduced more regularly to teens. Learning such topics can make such a huge impact on so many different groups of people and I think that is something that has made this program so rewarding for me.
I am now going into my fourth and final year of the program and my second year on our leadership council. I feel as though I have made huge progress throughout the program. My freshman year was completely remote (due to COVID), and, honestly, it was very awkward. There was no way to make connections with the people on the board because we were so limited to our Zoom screen. I feel as though the connections that I have made through this program have also made a huge impact on my personal growth. When I started JTFGB I was shy and kept to myself when I was in a situation where I didn’t know everyone. Now I am helping Bridget, the program’s director, lead our meetings, and I’m also helping with the grant ceremony at the end of the year when we award grants to nonprofit organizations that we select through our process. It has really taught me how to step out of my comfort zone and voice my opinion.
Fundraising is my favorite part of the program. Yes, it may be uncomfortable and awkward at first, but seeing all the donations that you earned during your fundraising efforts go to these amazing organizations is so rewarding. This past year, I was able to raise a little over $2,000. I did this by reaching out to so many different people in my life. I stepped out of my comfort zone and asked people whom I normally wouldn’t ask for donations, and it definitely paid off. This year I asked so many different people than in past years. I included family members of my friends and boyfriend. I stepped out of my comfort zone, asking new people, and I even received generous donations from people I was not expecting to donate. It was so cool to see these donations coming in each day, and then, at the end of the year, to be able to say I exceeded my personal fundraising goals, and that made me feel so good inside.
As far as the process goes, I usually reach out to my donors by email because it is an easier outreach than other options, in my opinion, and I can truly write out and explain as much or as little as I want to. I then give my phone number if people have more questions or request more information.
Being on the leadership council has given me a new perspective on the program. I am still a teen participating in the program, but I am also working alongside Bridget to make sure our meetings are beneficial and enjoyable for everyone. Leadership council is the bridge between our director and the teens, and because of this I am able to get feedback from other teens through informal conversation and use it to improve the program.
For teens thinking of joining JTFGB and feeling anxious about the fundraising aspect, this is my advice: When it comes to fundraising, each person is in a different spot when they start. Some may be used to asking for money from other program experiences, but for others this may be their first time. I think the best way to go about it is to start small and build on that, but I know no matter how difficult it is for you, the donors you are reaching out to will be so proud of you for so many different reasons. I hope to see you during our meetings this year, and I can’t wait to see how you grow as a philanthropist throughout the year.
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